Fighter of the Year:
CRM – Fighters don’t fight enough. Most of the top candidates only fought 2 times. Frankie Edgar beat BJ Penn twice. Cain Velasquez took out a legend and a monster and looked dominant as hell doing so. Jon Jones destroyed Brandon Vera and Vladamir Matyushenko and you should not be awarded for that in 2010. While each of those guys were great at a very high level, they still only fought twice. In a world where we beg to see Fedor Emelianenko fight more than once in a year, I think you need to reward those that do get in the cage as much as possible.
In March Pettis knocked out Danny Castillo with a devastating head-kick. He followed that up with back-to-back submissions over Alex Karalexis and Shane Roller. Then to finish the year with the Matrix kick at the end of a fight in which he won the last ever belt in the last ever fight in the WEC’s short, but incredibly awesome history… Looking back at Pettis’ year you should just be impressed with all that he managed to do.
Honorable Mention: Everybody mentioned above, plus Chris Leben who had sort of a career resurgence in 2010 as he went 3-0 with 1KO and a submission in a fight I’m about to talk about.
Montemayor – That Frankie Edgar outpointed B.J. Penn in April for a lightweight belt once thought inseparable from “The Prodigy” was surprising to be sure. That he left no doubt in his dismantling of Penn in their August rematch was a feat matched only by Georges St-Pierre. Edgar’s undersized when compared with most lightweights. His division now runs 60-plus fighters deep in the UFC and has very able competition in Strikeforce, Bellator and abroad — making a lengthy reign an infinitely tall task. But the headaches he provides his opponents, his bottomless gas tank and penchant for exciting fights makes his campaign a thrilling one. Watching Penn KO Matt Hughes in 21 seconds added a little perspective to Edgar’s 2010 accomplishments.
Jose Aldo, St-Pierre, Cain Velasquez and Jon Jones deserve consideration for Fighter of the Year nods as well.
Leonard Garcia and Jung Chan-Sung engaged in a fun fight that had everyone gaga at the WEC’s lone PPV. Some more blind judging in Garcia’s favor over the rest of the year kind of put a damper on everyone’s early fight of the year pick. Hell, even Lesnar-Carwin should get a mention. It was short, but was there a moment where you weren’t on the edge of your seat?
Montemayor – Nearly had my mind made up after CRM and I agreed to write another MMA Best Of post. I wanted to made Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen my fight of the year. I really wanted to. Nothing, to me, matched the anticipation, its delivery on that anticipation and the sheer mania of seeing Silva submit Sonnen after 20 minutes of being brutalized by the silver-tongued hypemaster. Elation, confusion, shock and awe hung in the air after the bout. It wasn’t a technical masterpiece of a fight. It wasn’t two lightweights battering each other in a thriller that went to the scorecards. But, to me, it marked the best fight of the year when thinking of it as an event and the its imprint in one’s memory.
And then Anthony Pettis threw that kick. Off the cage and in midair. Not just at the end of the year but at the end of his title victory against Ben Henderson and at the end of the WEC’s 53-card tenure. Fitting.
Pettis-Henderson, like Silva-Sonnen, has considerable legs in the dialogue of fight fan memories — more so than my runner up. Not only that, Pettis’ kick perhaps launched him to even greater things in 2011. It crossed platforms. It has inspired mid-day gym recreations the likes of which we’ll never be able to count. It likely caught the eye of a kid who now aspires to one day wear a UFC belt when he might have longed for an NFL helmet were this 2009.
Questions for 2011:
Will a sub-lightweight title fight headline a UFC PPV?
Will GSP get caught while trying too hard to finish Jake Shields?
Will head injuries in MMA receive the scrutiny they have in football/hockey/boxing?
How long will Cain Velasquez be champion?
Is Jon Jones ready for a title shot with a victory against Bader?
How will Bellator do on MTV2?
Has Strikeforce plateaued?
Will we see MMA judging reform?
Can Strikeforce make any interesting heavyweight fights with their awesome roster?